Skip to main content

Geller and allied families papers

Identifier: MS 0768
Finding aid note: Forms part of the Houston Jewish History Archive. Stored off-site at the Library Service Center and requires 24-hour notice for retrieval. Please contact the Woodson Research Center at 713-348-2586 or for more information.

Scope and Contents

This collection contains four boxes of photographs, clippings, correspondence, and newsletters related to members of the Geller and Leff families spanning 1896 to 2022.


  • Creation: 1896 - 2022


Conditions Governing Access

This material is open for research. Stored off-site at the Library Service Center and requires 24-hour notice for retrieval. Please contact the Woodson Research Center at 713-348-2586 or for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from the Geller and allied families papers must be obtained from the Woodson Reasearch Center, Fondren Library.

The Woodson Research Center use policy is that the researchers assume sole responsibility for any infringement of privacy, literary rights, copyrights, or other rights arising from their use of the archival materials. In addition to any restrictions placed by donors, certain kinds of archival materials are restricted for the life of the creator plus 50 years. These materials include, but are not limited to, student grades, transcripts, and any job applications or recommendations.

Geller Family

Jacob Geller was born, 1863, in what historically was known as Gilicia or Austrian Poland, which at the time of his birth was ruled as part of the Austrian Empire. His wife, Sara Wittis Geller, was also born in 1863 in Austrian Poland. The two were married in 1882. Rabbi Jacob Geller and his wife, Sara, immigrated to the United States from Europe around 1882 at the bequest of the Orthodox community of Galveston, Texas, to fulfill their search for an Orthodox rabbi. He served as rabbi for the congregation called "Bikur Cholim" for a number of years. While there he organized the Hebrew Orthodox Benevolent Association and dedicated a synagogue built by the Young Men's Hebrew Association. He served there for eighteen years, coming to Houston in 1910 to serve as rabbi of the Adath Israel congregation. He was elected for life tenure in November of 1929. He died February 10, 1930.

Jacob and Sara Geller had eight children: Harry Geller (1882-1963), Samuel Geller (1886-1971), Annie Geller Leff (1894-1973), Rabbi Max Geller (1896-1966), Abram L. Geller (1898-1989), Goldie Geller Minkes (1902-1986), and Gladys Leah Geller Gordon (1904-1982), and Esther Geller Rothkop (1907-1999).

Rabbi Max Geller was born May 27, 1896 in Galveston County, Texas and served as the rabbi of Congregation Beth Jacob for a number of years. In 1934, he was unanimously re-elected by Congregation Adath Israel to serve as spiritual leader for a period of ten years. The first native Texan to become an orthodox Jewish minister, Rabbi Geller was also active in civic and philanthropic affairs of the community. He died on July 11, 1966 at 70 years of age.

Abram L. Geller was born in Galveston, Texas on July 18, 1898. He was the son of Rabbi Jacob and Sara Geller. He graduated from Rice Institute in 1920. He worked for Leff Brothers Dry Goods Company. In 1923 he married Lebby Yellen of Beaumont, Texas. He had three children: Reba Geller Swiff, Devora Geller Rubin, Jacob Geller, and Golda Geller Baker. Geller belonged to the B'nai B'rith for 64 years and was a Zionist from the age of 22. He was past president of three synagues and a founder of Houston's Hebrew Academy. He helped organize Beth Jacob Congregation in 1937 with his brother Rabbi Max Geller. He died aged 90 on May 8, 1989.

Leff Family

The Leff brothers -- Ben, Jacob, and Sol -- were born in 1894, 1896 and 1900, respectively. The family immigrated from Austria to the United States in the early 1900s and settled in Texas. The three set up a corporation in 1921 and began a whole sale dry goods operation at 521 Preston Avenue in Houston. Sol was the salesman for South Texas, Jacob was office manager and sales, and Ben was buyer of all merchandise. After flooding twice the brothers moved the operation in 1937 to 1711 Preston. As the years passed the brothers' children began working in the family business, including Jacob's son David. Jacob Leff married Annie Geller (daughter of Rabbi Jacob and Sara Geller) in 1917. The couple had three children, including David M. Leff, born in Houston on August 24, 1924. David graduated from high school early and enrolled at Texas A&M University. David left college after three years, when World War II began, to join the Army where he served at military intelligence schools in France and England during the war. After the war, he returned to Texas A&M and graduated with a degree in business and accounting before joining his father and uncles at Leff Bros. Dry Goods. David met Evelyn Zimmerman on a blind date and the two married in 1947. They had three children: Stanley, Sharan, and Tina. Evelyn died in 1993 and David died in 2017 at the age of 93. Excerpted from:


2.50 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection contains photographs, clippings, correspondence, and newsletters related to members of the Geller and Leff families from 1896 to 2022.


The materials in this collection consist of items donated by multiple family mambers. They have remained grouped with items in each individual donation and arranged in seven series as follows:

Series I: Harriet Katzeff - Geller Family Materials; Series II: Jay Geller materials; Series III: Norma Geller materials; Series IV: Jacob Geller papers; Series V: Geller/Leff Family; Series VI: Alicia Leff papers; Series VII: David M. Leff papers; Series VIII: Harriet Geller papers; Series IX: Oversize

Addendum materials that came in later are described in the finding aid with previous materials donated by the donor, but may not be in the same box as the original accession.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials were donated between 2018 and 2023 by members of the Geller and Leff families. For more information about the donations please see the accession records in this finding aid.

Related Materials

Mazkeres ahavah = Remembrance of love : a biographical account of Rabbi Yaakov and Sara Geller and family : the transplanting of Jewish life from Galicia to Texas 1863 to the present / by Shmuel Geller.

Guide to the Geller and allied families papers, 1896-2022
Rebecca Russell, Traci Patterson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Woodson Research Center, Rice University, Houston, Texas Repository

Fondren Library MS-44, Rice University
6100 Main St.
Houston Texas 77005 USA